|Motto: "Fui sobre agua edificada,
mis muros de fuego son.
Esta es mi insignia y blasón" (On water I was built,
my walls are made of fire.
This is my ensign and escutcheon) 
Location of Madrid
|Region||Community of Madrid|
|- Mayor||Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (PP)|
|- Land||607 km2 (234.4 sq mi)|
|- Metro||10,506 km2 (4,057 sq mi)|
|Elevation||667 m (2,188 ft)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|- Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Area code(s)||34 (Spain) + 91 (Madrid)|
Madrid (English pronunciation: /məˈdrɪd/; Spanish: [maˈðɾið], colloquially [maˈðɾi]) is the capital and largest city of Spain. It is the third-most populous municipality in the European Union after Greater London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-most populous in the European Union after Paris and London.
The city is located on the river Manzanares in the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political centre of Spain. The current mayor is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón from the People's Party (PP). He has been in office since 2003, when he left the Presidency of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and stood as the candidate to replace outgoing mayor José María Álvarez del Manzano, also from the PP. In the last local elections of 2007, Ruiz-Gallardón increased the PP majority in the City Council to 34 seats out of 57, taking 55.5% of the popular vote and winning in all but two districts.
Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial centre of the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies, as well as the headquarters of three of the world's 100 largest companies (Telefónica, Repsol-YPF, Banco Santander). Furthermore, Madrid was ranked in drawn 10th place with Hong Kong for the world's most powerful cities, featuring in the top 20 cities for 5 out of the 6 categories considered.
While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the huge Royal Palace of Madrid; the Teatro Real (Royal theatre) with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the imposing 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; an archaeological museum; and three superb art museums: Prado Museum, which hosts one of the finest art collections in the world, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, housed in the renovated Villahermosa Palace.
The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million (as of December 2009). The entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area (urban area and suburbs) is calculated to be 6.386.932. The city spans a total of 698 km² (234 sq mi).
There are several theories regarding the origin of the name "Madrid". According to legend Madrid was founded by Ocno Bianor (son of King Tyrrhenius of Tuscany and Mantua) and was named "Metragirta" or "Mantua Carpetana". Others contend that the original name of the city was "Ursaria" ("land of bears" in Latin), due to the high number of these animals that were found in the adjacent forests, which, together with the strawberry tree ("madroño" in Spanish), have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages. The ancient name of the city "Magerit" comes from the name of a fortress built on the Manzanares River in 9AD, and means "Place of abundant water."
Nevertheless, it is now commonly believed that the origin of the current name of the city comes from the 2nd century B.C. The Roman Empire established a settlement on the banks of the Manzanares river. The name of this first village was "Matrice" (a reference to the river that crossed the settlement). Following the invasions of the Germanic Sueves, Vandals and Alans during the fifth century A.D., the Roman Empire could not defend its territories on the Iberian Peninsula, and were therefore overrun by the Visigoths. The barbarian tribes subsequently took control of "Matrice". In the 7th century the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula saw the name changed to "Mayrit", from the Arabic term ميرا "Mayra" (referencing water as a "trees" or "giver of life") and the Ibero-Roman suffix "it" that means "place". The modern "Madrid" evolved from the Mozarabic "Matrit", which is still in the Madrilenian gentilic.
Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since pre-historic times, in the Roman era this territory belonged to the diocese of Complutum (present-day Alcalá de Henares). There are archeological remains of a small village during the visigoth epoch, whose name might have been adopted later by Arabs. The origins of the modern city come from the 9th century, when Muhammad I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is today occupied by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built. Near that palace was the Manzanares, which the Muslims called al-Majrīṭ (Arabic: المجريط, "source of water"). From this came the naming of the site as Majerit, which later evolved into the modern-day spelling of Madrid. The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Christian king Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison's granary). In 1329, the Cortes Generales first assembled in the city to advise Alfonso XI of Castile. Sephardi Jews and Moors continued to live in the city until they were expelled at the end of the 15th century. After troubles and a large fire, Henry III of Castile (1379–1406) rebuilt the city and established himself safely fortified outside its walls in El Pardo. The grand entry of Ferdinand and Isabella to Madrid heralded the end of strife between Castile and Aragon.
The Crown of Castile, with its capital at Toledo, and the Crown of Aragon, with its capital at Barcelona, were welded into modern Spain by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon).
Though their grandson Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) favoured Seville, it was Charles' son, Philip II (1527–1598) who moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court was the de facto capital. Seville continued to control commerce with Spain's colonies, but Madrid controlled Seville.
During the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century), in the 16th/17th century, Madrid bore little resemblance to other European capitals, as the population of the city was economically dependent on the business of the court itself, and there was no other significant activity.
In the late 1800s, Isabel II could not suppress the political tension that would lead to yet another revolt, the First Spanish Republic. This was later followed by the return of the monarchy to Madrid, then the creation of the Second Spanish Republic, preceding the Spanish Civil War.
Madrid was one of the most heavily affected cities of Spain by the Civil War (1936–1939). The city was a stronghold of the Republicans from July 1936. Its western suburbs were the scene of an all-out battle in November 1936 and it was during the Civil War that Madrid became the first European city to be bombed by airplanes (Japan was the first to bomb civilians in world history, at Shanghai in 1932) specifically targeting civilians in the history of warfare. (See Siege of Madrid (1936-39)).
During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, especially during the 1960s, the south of Madrid became very industrialized, and there were massive migrations from rural areas of Spain into the city. Madrid's south-eastern periphery became an extensive working class settlement, which was the base for an active cultural and political reform.
After the death of Franco, emerging democratic parties (including those of left-wing and republican ideology) accepted King Juan Carlos I as both Franco's successor and as the heir of the historic dynasty - in order to secure stability and democracy. This led Spain to its current position as a constitutional monarchy, with Madrid as capital.
Benefiting from increasing prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s, the capital city of Spain has consolidated its position as an important economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological centre on the European continent.
The region of Madrid features the rare Continental Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with cool winters due to altitude, including sporadic snowfalls and minimum temperatures often below 0 °C (32 °F). Summer tends to be hot with temperatures that consistently surpass 30 °C (86 °F) in July and that can rarely reach 40 °C (104 °F). Due to Madrid's altitude and dry climate, nightly temperatures tend to be cooler, leading to a lower average in the summer months. Precipitation levels are low, but precipitation can be observed throughout the year. Summer and winter are the driest seasons, with most rainfall occurring in the autumn and spring.
|Average high °C (°F)||9.7
|Average low °C (°F)||2.6
|Precipitation cm (inches)||3.7
|Avg. precipitation days||9||9||7||11||12||7||3||3||5||9||9||11||95|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)|
Madrid is administratively divided into 21 districts, which are further subdivided into 128 wards (barrios)
|Madrid districts. The numbers correspond with the list in the left|
The Madrid Metropolitan Area (Spanish: Área metropolitana de Madrid) comprises the city of Madrid and forty surrounding municipalities. It has a population of slightly more than 5.8 million people and covers an area of 4.609,7 km². It is the largest metropolitan area in Spain and by one measure the fourth largest in European Union and the 45th largest in the world.
As with many metropolitan areas of similar size, two distinct zones of urbanisation can be distinguished:
The largest suburbs are to the South, and in general along the main routes leading out of Madrid.
A new project, has stated there are more submetropolitan areas inside Madrid metropolitan area:
|Madrid - Majadahonda||996.1||3,580,828||3,595.0|
|Fuenlabrada - Leganés - Getafe - Parla - Pinto - Valdemoro||931.7||822,806||883.1|
|Arganda del Rey - Rivas-Vaciamadrid||343.6||115,344||335.7|
|Alcalá de Henares - Torrejón de Ardoz||514.6||360,380||700.3|
|Colmenar Viejo - Tres Cantos||419.1||104,650||249.7|
|Madrid metropolitan area||4,609.7||5,843,031||1,267.6|
Although the site of Madrid has been occupied since prehistoric times, the first historical data that concerns the city dates from the middle of the ninth Century, when Mohammad I ordered the construction of a small palace (site occupied now by the Palacio Real). Around this palace there was built a small citadel (al-Mudaina). The palace was built overlooking the River Manzanares, which the Muslims called Mayrit meaning source of water (which in turn became Magerit, and then eventually Madrid). The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Alfonso VI in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison's granary), now the Catedral de la Almudena. In 1329 the Cortes first assembled in Madrid to advise Fernando IV. Jews and Moors continued to live in the city in their quarter, still known today as the "Moreria", until they were expelled. The Royal Palace of Madrid and the buildings and monuments of the Paseo del Prado (Salón del Prado and Alcalá Gate) deserve special mention. They were constructed in a sober Baroque international style, often mistaken for neoclassical, by the Bourbon kings. Plans for the construction of a new cathedral for Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena began in the 16th century, but the slow construction did not begin until 1879. Francisco de Cubas, the Marquis of Cubas, was the architect who designed and directed the construction in a Gothic revival style. Construction ceased completely during the Spanish Civil War. The project was abandoned until 1950, when Fernando Chueca Goitia adapted the plans of de Cubas to a neoclassical style exterior to match the grey and white façade of the Palacio Real, which stands directly opposite. and was not completed until 1993, when the cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. On Calle Princesa, in the heart of the district of Moncloa, lies el Ejército del Aire, the headquarters of the Spanish Air Force. A scaled-down replica of the famous Monastery San Lorenzo del Escorial which lies about 50 kilometers northeast of Madrid, el Ejército del Aire is a classic example of Fascist Neoclassicism in Madrid.
The financial district in downtown Madrid between the streets Raimundo Fernández Villaverde, Orense, General Perón and Paseo de la Castellana, its original conception (and its name) to the "Plan General de Ordenación Urbana de Madrid", approved in 1946. The purpose of this plan was to create a huge block of modern office buildings with metro and railway connections in the expansion area of northern Madrid, just in front of Real Madrid stadium (currently named the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium) and beside the brand new government complex of Nuevos Ministerios. A botanical garden, a library and an opera house were also included in the plans, but these were never built. Cuatro Torres Business Area is a business park that was completed in 2008. This block contains the tallest skyscrapers in Madrid and Spain (Torre Espacio, Torre de Cristal, Torre Sacyr Vallehermoso and Torre Caja Madrid).
Madrid Barajas International Airport Terminal 4, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers (winning them the 2006 Stirling Prize), and TPS Engineers, (winning them the 2006 IStructE Award for Commercial Structures) was inaugurated on February 5, 2006. Terminal 4 is one of the world's largest terminal areas, with an area of 760,000 square meters (8,180,572 square feet) in two separate terminals. Consisting of a main building, T4 (470,000 square meter), and satellite building, T4S (290,000 square meter), which are separated by approximately 2.5 km. Hong Kong International Airport still holds the title for the world's largest single terminal building (Terminal 1) at 570,000 square meter. The new Terminal 4 is meant to give passengers a stress-free start to their journey. This is managed through careful use of illumination, available by glass panes instead of walls and numerous domes in the roof which allow natural light to pass through. With the new addition, Barajas is designed to handle 70 million passengers annually.
Madrid is full of green spaces and parkland; in central Madrid the largest park is Parque del Retiro, spreading out to the north-east of Atocha Railway station. The station is the core centre for high-speed AVE trains, with current lines to Valladolid (North-West), Barcelona (North-East) and Seville (South).
Madrid has many trees, both in parks and on the streets, with about 500,000. In 2005, the city had 300,000 and only Tokyo had more trees (100,000 more), but also had three times more population than Madrid.
Parque del Retiro, formerly the grounds of the palace built for Felipe IV, is Madrid’s most popular park. Its large lake in the middle once staged mini naval sham battles to amuse royalty; these days the more tranquil pastime of pleasure boating is popular. Inspired by London’s crystal palace, the palacio de cristal can be found at the south-eastern end of the park.
Atocha Railway Station is not only the city’s first and most central station but also home to a distinctive indoor garden with 4,000 square meters of tropical plants. Atocha station has become a hothouse destination in itself for plant lovers, with more than 500 species of plant life and ponds with turtle and goldfish in, as well as shops and cafes. It's a nice place to visit on a cold or wet day with its even temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, or even on a scorching summer day as a retreat from the heat.
Casa de Campo is an enormous rural parkland to the west of the city, the largest of all Madrid’s green areas. It is home to a fairground, the Madrid Zoo and an outdoor municipal pool, to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the park and city take a cable car trip above the tree tops.
The Royal Botanic Garden or Real Jardin Botanico was an 18th century creation by Carlos III, it was used as a base for the plant species being collected across the globe. There is an important research facility that started life as a base to develop herbal remedies and to house the species collected from the new-world trips, today it is dedicated to maintaining Europe’s ecosystem.
The pioneering ecological theme park Faunia, is a natural history museum and zoo combined, aimed at being fun and educational for children. It comprises eight eco-systems from tropical rain forests to polar regions, and contains over 1,500 animals, some of which roam freely.
Over the last 15 years until 2009, the cost of living increased in Madrid. The city has grown to become the 22nd most expensive city in the world in 2008, the highest any Spanish city has ever featured. Although Madrid is still at 80.7% of New York, dramatic rises since 2005 show that Madrid could easily be challenging the cities higher above the ranks very soon.
The population of Madrid generally increased from when the city became the national capital in the mid-16th century and stabilised at about 3 million from the 1970s.
From around 1970 until the mid 1990s, the city's population dropped. This phenomenon, which also affected other European cities, was caused in part by the growth of satellite suburbs at the expense of the downtown. Another reason might have been the slowdown in the rate of growth of the European economy.
The demographic boom accelerated in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to international immigration, in response to a surge in Spanish economic growth. According to census data, the population of the city grew by 271,856 between 2001 and 2005.
As the capital city of Spain, the city has attracted many immigrants from around the world. About 83.8% of the inhabitants are Spaniards, while people of other origins, including immigrants from Latin America, Europe, Asia, North Africa and West Africa, represented 16.2% of the population in 2007.
The ten largest immigrant groups include: Ecuadorian: 104,184, Romanian: 52,875, Bolivian: 44,044, Colombian: 35,971, Peruvian: 35,083, Chinese: 34,666, Moroccan: 32,498, Dominican: 19,602, Brazilian: 14,583, and Paraguayan: 14,308. There are also important communities of Filipinos, Equatorial Guineans, Bulgarians, Indians, Italians, Argentines, Nicaraguans, French, Senegalese and Poles.
See also: List of mayors of Madrid
The City Council consists of 57 members, one of them being the Mayor, currently Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón Jiménez. The Mayor presides over the Council. In the 2007 regional and local elections, the conservative Popular Party obtained 34 seats, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) obtained 18, and United Left obtained 5.
The Plenary of the Council, is the body of political representation ( of the citizens in the municipal government. Some of its attributions are: fiscal matters, the election and deposition of the Mayor, the approval and modification of decrees and regulations, the approval of budgets, the agreements related to the limits and alteration of the municipal term, the services management, the participation in supramunicipal organizations, etc. Nowadays, mayoral team consists of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and 8 Delegates; all of them form The Board of Delegates (the Municipal Executive Committee).
Madrid has tended to be a stronghold of the People's Party, which has controlled the city's mayoralty since 1989.
Madrid is one of Spain's most popular destinations and is renowned for its large quantity of cultural attractions.
Madrid is considered one of the top European destinations concerning art museums. Best known is the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three museums. The most famous one is the Prado Museum, the most popular Golden Triangle of Art member known for such highlights as Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas and Francisco de Goya's La maja vestida and La maja desnuda. The other two museums are the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, established from a mixed private collection, and the Reina Sofia Museum. This is where Pablo Picasso's Guernica hangs, returning to Spain from New York after more than two decades.
Madrid is notable for its nightlife and night clubs. On weekends, Madrilenian youth are known for dancing all night long, stopping only to go home, take a shower, shave, and go to work.
What is also popular is the practice of meeting in parks or streets with friends and drinking alcohol together (this is called 'botellón', from 'botella', bottle), but in recent years, drinking in the street is punished with a fine and now young madrileños drink together all around the city instead of in better-known places. Many places host bands (concerts in Madrid). Nightlife and young cultural awakening flourished after the death of Franco, especially during the 80s while Madrid's mayor Enrique Tierno Galván (PSOE) was in office, at this time is well-known the cultural movement called la movida and it initially gathered around Plaza del Dos de Mayo. Nowadays, the Malasaña area is known for its alternative scene. Some of the most popular night destinations include the neighbourhoods of: Bilbao, Tribunal, Alonso Martinez or Moncloa, together with Puerta del Sol area (including Opera and Gran Via, both adjacent to the popular square) and Huertas (barrio de Las Letras), destinations which are also filled with tourists day and night. The district of Chueca has also become a hot spot in the Madrilenian night life specially for gay population. Chueca is popularly known as the gay quarter, comparable to The Castro district in San Francisco.
The Auditorio Nacional de Música  is the main venue for classical music concerts in Madrid, is home to the Spanish National Orchestra, the Chamartín Symphony Orchestra  and the venue for the symphonic concerts of the Community of Madrid Orchestra and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. It is also the principal venue for orchestras on tour playing in Madrid. The performs RTVE Symphony Orchestra at the Teatro Monumental.
The Teatro Real is the main opera house in Madrid and its resident orchestra is the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. The Teatro de la Zarzuela is mainly devoted to Zarzuela (the Spanish traditional musical theatre genre), as well as operetta and recitals. The resident orchestra of the theatre is the Community of Madrid Orchestra.
Other concert venues for classical music are the Fundación Joan March and the Auditorio 400, devoted to contemporary music.
Madrid hosts the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, Las Ventas, established in 1929. Las Ventas is considered by many to be the world centre of bullfighting and has a seating capacity of almost 25,000. Madrid's bullfighting season begins in March and ends in October. Bullfights are held every day during the festivities of San Isidro (Madrid's patron saint) from the middle of March to the middle of June, and every Sunday, and public holiday, the rest of the season. The style of the plaza is Neomudéjar. Las Ventas also hosts music concerts and other events outside of the bullfighting season.
Madrid is home to Real Madrid, who play in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Their supporters are referred to as vikingos, Vikings, or, more commonly, merengues, meringues. Real Madrid is one of the most prestigious football clubs in the world, having won a record 9 European Cups. Their hometown rivals, Atlético Madrid, are also well supported in the city. The players (and supporters) are referred to as colchoneros, mattresses, in reference to the teams red & white jerseys having been determined by mattress material being the cheapest at the time of the club's formation. They are also called indios, (Indians) because of the stripped jerseys reminds the warrior Indian paint in many Hollywood westerns. Madrid's contribution to the sport is further noticed by the fact that it hosted the 1982 FIFA World Cup final. Along with Barcelona, Glasgow and Lisbon Madrid is one of four cities in Europe to contain two UEFA 5-star stadia: Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu and Atlético Madrid's Vicente Calderón both meet the criteria.
Some of Spain's top footballers are Madrileños, including Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueño and co (La Quinta del Buitre, "The Vulture's Cohort"), Liverpool's Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres and Real Madrid veterans Raúl González, Guti Hernandez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas.
Madrid also boasts a prominent place in Spanish basketball, with two clubs in the country's top-level Liga ACB. Real's basketball section has won the European championship more times than any other club, and is also a fixture in the modern version of that competition, the Euroleague.
The city is also host to the Circuito Permanente Del Jarama, a motorsport race circuit which formerly hosted the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix. Historically, the city serves as the last stage of the Vuelta a España cyclist classic in the same way as Paris does in the Tour de France.
Madrid is home to a large number of public and private universities. The Autonomous University of Madrid is the number one ranked public university in Spain, and was instituted under the leadership of the physicist, Nicolás Cabrera. Known simply as la Autónoma in Madrid, its main site is the Cantoblanco Campus, situated 10 miles (16 km) to the northeast of the capital (M-607) and close to the municipal areas of Madrid, namely Alcobendas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Tres Cantos and Colmenar Viejo.
Another university is the Complutense University of Madrid founded in 1293, which is one of the oldest universities in the world. It has 10,000 staff members and a student population of 117,000. It is located on two campuses, in the university quarter Ciudad Universitaria at Moncloa in Madrid, and in Somosaguas.
Other universities in Madrid: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (public), Polytechnic University of Madrid (public), Universidad Pontificia Comillas (private), Rey Juan Carlos University (public), Universidad Alfonso X, Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Universidad Camilo José Cela, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Universidad Europea de Madrid, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca Campus de Madrid, Saint Louis University Madrid Campus and Universidad San Pablo CEU (all of them private).
IE Business School (formerly Instituto de Empresa) has its main campus on the border of the Chamartín and Salamanca districts of Madrid. IE Business School recently ranked #1 in WSJ's 2009 rankings for Best MBA Programs under 2 years. It scored ahead of usual stalwarts, INSEAD and IMD, giving it top billing amongst International MBA programs. Although based in Barcelona, both IESE Business School and ESADE Business School also have Madrid campuses. These three schools are the top-ranked business schools in Spain, consistently rank among the top 20 business schools globally, and offer MBA programs (in English or Spanish) as well as other business degrees. Other Madrid universities that have MBA programs include:
Madrid is served by Barajas Airport. Barajas is the main hub of Iberia Airlines. It consequently serves as the main gateway to the Iberian peninsula from Europe, America and the rest of the world. Current passenger volumes range upwards of 52 million passengers per year, putting it in the top 20 busiest airports in the world. Given annual increases close to 10%, a new fourth terminal has been constructed. It has significantly reduced delays and doubled the capacity of the airport to more than 70 million passengers per year. Two additional runways have also been constructed, making Barajas a fully operational four-runway airport.
The Councillor of Transports of the Community of Madrid, Manuel Lamela, announced in 2007 that the city will also be served by two new airports which are expected to be fully operative in 2016, the first of which will be located in Campo Real, it will be initially be used for cargo flights, but also as hub for low-cost carriers, and the second one, expected to be built between the two municipalities of El Álamo and Navalcarnero, which will only take over the routes operating in Cuatro Vientos Airport
Spain's railway system, the Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles (Renfe) operates the vast majority of Spain's railways. In Madrid, the main rail terminals are Atocha in the south and Chamartín in the north.
The most important project in the next decade is the Spanish high speed rail network, Alta Velocidad Española AVE. Currently, an ambitious plan includes the construction of a 7,000 kilometre (4,350 mi) network, centred on Madrid. The overall goal is to have all important provincial cities be no more than 4 hours away from Madrid, and no more than 6 hours away from Barcelona. As of 2008, AVE high-speed trains link Atocha station to Seville, Málaga and Toledo in the south and to Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona in the east. AVE trains also arrive from Valladolid and Segovia.
Serving a population of some four million, the Madrid Metro is one of the most extensive and fastest-growing metro networks in the world. With the addition of a loop serving suburbs to Madrid's south-west "Metrosur", it is now the second largest metro system in Western Europe, second only to London's Underground. In 2007 Madrid's metro system was expanded and it currently runs over 283 kilometers (176 miles) of line. The province of Madrid is also served by an extensive commuter rail network of 370 kilometers (230 miles) called Cercanías.
Principal facade of the Prado Museum.
Casa de la Villa.
Monarchs´s statues in the Plaza de Oriente.
Las Calatravas Church.
Spanish Air Force Headquarters.
View of the (now) Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food headquarters.
Hospital de Maudes.
San Manuel y San Benito Church.
Collegate Church of Santa Bárbara.
Arco de la Victoria.
Madrid  is the capital of Spain, as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the same name (Comunidad de Madrid). It is Spain's largest city, with a population (city) of 3.228 million (July 2005) and 5.843 million (metropolitan area). Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage, a good example of which is the El Prado museum. Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world.
Madrid is located a little north east from the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula, in the middle of the Spanish central Castillian plateau (Meseta central), at an average altitude of 650m. Nearly all of the most famous tourist areas are located in the historical center of Madrid, middle south of the city: Puerta del Sol in the middle, Plaza Mayor a bit to the south, Palacio Real to the west, and Plaza de Colón to the north-east. Some of those hot spots spread up past the Gran Via, which is one of the main streets in Madrid (the largest one being Alcalá Street, followed by the Paseo de la Castellana).
The climate of Madrid is continental; mainly dry and quite extreme at times, with frequent rain in winter. Madrid sees perpetual sunshine and a characteristically hot temperature in the summer, but with a fairly cold temperature in the winter. Spring and autumn are fairly temperate with most rainfall concentrated in these seasons, together with winter. Spring is definitely the best time to visit, especially the months of April, May and June. Rainfall occurs sporadically, and snowfall is not something that happens every year in the city, but there is abundant snowfall in the adjacent mountain ranges nearby.
The culture of Madrid was dominated by its religious and Royal history. Enormous, monolithic cathedrals and churches are plentiful in Madrid, as well as medieval architecture, although nowadays Madrid is just as much a cosmopolitan city as Berlin or London, full of new architecture, life style and culture.
Madrid was also the capital of the Franquist dictatorship (1939-1975) and the city still seems to represent a conservative part of Spain to many Spaniards. However, the city is also the epicentre of the famous Movida, Spain's 80s movement that bred personalities such as the director Pedro Almodóvar. The heritage of this era is indeed still visible in the city centre, where a party can be found at all times and one of the most liberal and colourful environments of Spain can be seen. The city centre is also known for its great gay tolerance.
The citizens of Madrid, who refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term "gatos" (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the climate. Due to the typically extreme midday heat, a "siesta" is observed during which some citizens take a break to cool off, though Madrileños can usually only afford this 'luxury' during holidays and weekends. Most stores are open during all the day, just small stores are often closed during this time. Workers and those more afflicted by Western lifestyles choose not to observe this long break and work traditional business hours, which are usually between 9AM and 6-7PM. During summer many offices, however, will have a summer schedule requiring workers to start at 8am and finish at 3pm (most commonly without the standard 1-2 hour break for lunch). Offices usually close during the weekend but businesses are often open Saturday morning (downtown stays open until afternoon). Most grocers are closed on Sundays, but some major chain and department stores linked to "culture" (books, music, etc.) will be open throughout the day and all of them on the first Sunday of the month. Madrid possibly has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city and a very active nightlife; Madrileños are known to stay up until as late as 5AM-7AM. It is quite common to see a crowded Gran Via on weekend nights. It is important to note that, due to this lifestyle, lodging located near the fun areas may end up a nightmare for light sleepers if your window matches the street.
Madrid has a very modernized and elaborate transportation network of buses and Metro. The city contrasts with some large European cities in that it is extremely clean, and city employees in bright yellow vests can almost always be seen cleaning the streets and sidewalks. Like most large cities, however, there is a substantial population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.
Madrid is one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Communities of West Africans, North Africans, other Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis and (especially) Latin Americans are prominent.
Some popular districts are:
Malasaña— Alternative area, full of all kind of people hanging out at pubs, bars, cafes, squares and small shops. Mainly rock and punk music, some of them still open from "La movida madrileña" (beginning of 80's).
Chueca— By Malasaña and Gran Via, it is the gay district (although noone is ever excluded) with a very strong personality. New design, trendy shops, cool cafes. Pop and electronic music.
Lavapies— Lavapies is maybe the most cosmopolitan and hippy area at the same time in Madrid. Indian restaurants, alternative coffees, African music and South American shops. Walking around for a coffee is well worth it.
La Latina— By Lavapies, it is the place to go for tapas and full of bohemian young people looking for stylish bars. It hosts the most popular flea market in Madrid, every Sunday morning.
Salamanca— Plenty of expensive boutiques, uniques shops with impossible prices and department stores.
Moncloa— Due to proximity to the main University in Madrid (Universidad Complutense), Moncloa is associated with students and a student lifestyle.
Barrio de las Letras / Huertas— Many of Spains most famous writers lived there (Cervantes, Quevedo, etc.). It is among Lavapies, Puerta del Sol and Paseo del Prado. It is an area full of history and interesting buildings and is also well-known because of its concentration of bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels.
The nearest airport is Barajas International Airport (IATA: MAD), 902 404 704, . About 15-20 minutes from Madrid. It is connected to the city by the Metro line eight. Taxis from the airport to the city center cost about €25. In February 2006, a huge new terminal building, designed by Britain's Richard Rogers and Spain's Antonio Lamela, was inaugurated at Barajas. All One World alliance flights depart from the new Terminal 4 (T4) as well as the low cost carrier Vueling and other unaffiliated carriers. The Metro connection between the airport (and the new T4 terminal) and the rest of the system has been finished. There is a supplement of €1 on the regular metro ticket (that also costs €1) for the airport line. Bus services run from the remaining terminals to T4 and there are additional bus services running from the center of Madrid (Plaza Colón and Avenida de América). There are plans for a commuter train link from Atocha and Chamartín to the airport. Two smaller airports, Torrejón and Cuatro Vientos, also serve the city.
Not only is Madrid the capital of Spain, but it is also the hub of the country's rail network. Major routes include frequent trains to Barcelona on the east coast (2 h 40 min journey), where it is possible to continue on to the French coast, and to Paris to the north with access to most of the rest of Europe.
Main connections between Madrid and other European cities include:
Spain's high-speed train (AVE - Alta Velocidad de España) makes the Madrid-Seville run in two and a half hours. The AVE line to Barcelona is ready now and the journey takes 2 h 40 min.
There is more information available at Spanish Railway System Renfe  (+34 902-240-202).
Madrid has eight enormous international and intercity bus stations. Information on where buses to a particular destination depart from can be found at the Tourist Office.
Many of the international buses, and those headed south of Madrid, arrive at and depart from Estación Sur de Autobuses (Calle de Mendez Alvaro, Tel:+34 91-468-4200 ) which is connected to the rest of the city by metro. Buses to and from Barcelona and Bilbao are based from the Avenida de America bus terminal (Ave. de America), also connected to the Metro.
There are car rental facilities available on the airport, train stations and other main travel sites. Always be sure to have a street map handy! The roads within Madrid are difficult to navigate as there are no places to stop and consult a map or check your route.
Also, if you are relying on GPS navigation, be aware that there are several consecutive junctions underground near the centre and your GPS won't have a signal to direct you. Plan your turnings before you enter the tunnels.
Buses and subways form an integrated network  and work with the same tickets. A single ticket is one euro, a ten trip ticket is 7,40 euros, and there are tourist passes: 1 (€5.20), 2 (€8.80), 3 (€11.60), 5 (€17.60), or 7 (€23.60) days. Children under 11 have a 50% discount. Tickets at Metro stations, news-stands, and estancos (tobacconists').
The Metro de Madrid  (Madrid's Subway/Underground) is one of the best and cheapest working metros in Europe. Also, the underground tunnels of the Metro provide relief from the sun on particularly hot days. Stamping the ticket one time allows you to use the Metro network as long and far as you like - make sure you stay inside the Metro zone, once you leave it, you'll have to stamp your ticket again. When you travel to or from airport stations, there is additional fee of €1, which can be paid at the entrance (exit) - except Metro passes (Metrobús or tourist pass). You can catch some trains as late as 2:00 am.
Nights before Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays have a night bus (MetroBúho) service on the same routes as the Metro lines, from rougly 01:00 AM to 05:30 AM. Stops for these lines are sometimes not in obvious places, especially in the pedestrian areas in the city center.
Whatever the Metro doesn't cover, the buses do.
Night buses (Búhos, "night owls"), have their main hub at Plaza de Cibeles , covering most of the city at roughly 20 minutes intervals.
Taxis can be short on party nights, especially if there is some rain. Unlike in other European cities, there are few taxi ranks; just stand by the side of a major road or bus stop and wave your hand for a free taxi passing by. Available taxis have a green libre sign in the windshield and a green light on top.
Official taxis are white, and have a red stripe and the flag of Madrid on the front door. The tariff is displayed on top of the car (a 1 during daytime, a 2 during the night, which become 2 and 3 on holidays such as Christmas Eve).
There are also special surcharges if you go to the airport, like a surcharge for the bags and for entering or leaving the airport. Ask for the written table of tariffs and charges (suplementos) (shown on small stickers on rear windows, compulsory by law) before paying if you think it's too expensive. A normal ride to/from the airport with luggage should be about 25€.
Transportation by private automobile in Madrid can be very difficult. The Spanish capital suffers from the typical problems of most big cities; far too many cars and not enough space to accommodate them. Sometimes there can even be traffic jams in the Paseo de la Castellana at three o'clock in the morning (then again, three in the morning is early to some Madrileños). The problem is compounded by the narrow streets in the old town, where a lorry delivering beer barrels to a local bar can cause a huge tailback. Looking for a place to park your car can be very time consuming, and difficult if one is not skilled in the art of close proximity parallel parking. Many Spaniards are also lacking in this art, prompting them to simply park in the street, blocking other cars in. If you find yourself blocked in by such a practice, honk your horn until the driver returns. If you parallel park your car in Madrid, be very aware that most Madrileños park by sound alone. They will feel no remorse for repeatedly hitting the car in front and behind them while trying to get into or out of a tight spot. If you value your car's paint job, or you have rented a car, it may be best to park underground. Though this is no guarantee for nobody hitting your car, the chances are somewhat diminished.
On the other hand, travel by car can be advantageous; going home by car on weekends is, of course depending where you live, usually faster than by public transport.
Riding a bicycle in Madrid is quite dangerous because there is no reserved section of the road for bikers, and drivers are not used to seeing bicycles in the city. This is due to Madrid not being a flat city so Madrileños do not see travel by bike as being practical. The Metro limits the times when a bicycle can be carried on it. However, Madrid is not totally devoid of bicyclists- Madrid bikers can often be seen riding in El Retiro, Madrid's second largest park. Enjoy the nature or do some sport, but note that the parks are considered dangerous after the sun sets. At tourist offices you can get a map with the bicycle paths. The paths have been built the past few years to try and promote bicycling.
While knowledge of the English language is increasing amongst the younger generations, the majority of Madrid's residents know only a few words - even employees at U.S. franchised businesses such as McDonald's and employees at cash exchange centers rarely speak much English. You can often find someone with a fair grasp of English at larger hotels and tourism sites, but it would nevertheless be helpful to know at least a few common Spanish words and phrases.
(Now you are a madrileño!)
If you are coming to Madrid and you want to see some live music, here are some of the major venues:
If you are into classical and opera you will not be disappointed in Madrid:
No trip to Madrid would be complete without seeing a flamenco show, Spain's most passionatre art form:
If you want to see films in English while visiting Madrid, there are a number of cinemas offering American and British films in the original language (along with films in other languages). These original films are denoted in the listings by a designation of "V.O." which stands for versión original. Cinemas in Madrid will sometimes have días del espectador (viewer days) with cheaper ticket prices. These are usually on Mondays or Wednesdays, check with the theater to find out if they offer them. Some of the V.O. theaters to check out are:
Major credit cards and foreign bank cards are accepted in most stores, but be aware that it is common practice to be asked for photo-ID ("D.N.I."). If asked for your DNI present your passport, residency permit or foreign ID card. Basically anything with your photo and name on it will be accepted by most shopkeepers. The signatures on credit cards are usually not checked.
There are also a great number of H&M, Zara, Mango, and Blanco stores all over Madrid, with high fashion clothes and accessories at a low price.
Plaza Mayor is particularly notorious for high prices and low quality.
A much better option is the La Latina neighborhood just south of Plaza Mayor, especially along the Cava Baja street. To enjoy a gastronomic tour of this area you can join the Old Madrid Tapas & Wine Tour. At bars, one generally orders various sized plates, a ración meaning a full dish, a media ración a half dish or a smaller version which would be a tapa, a pinxto or a pincho.If you are looking for food for a picnic the Corte Ingles on Calle de Preciados near Sol has a basement store fully stocked supermercado that includes a deli, bakery and fresh produce. There are also a number of deli-like shops along Calle Arenal that offer food para llevar (for take away). Also, if you are looking for cheaper food try any of the Museo del Jamon scattered throughout the city.
Don't forget that the Spaniards don't eat lunch until 2 or 3 pm, and dinner doesn't start until 9 or 10 pm. As a rule of thumb, restaurants serve lunch from 1PM (earlier in touristic zones) until 3:30PM, then close and re-open for dinner at 8:30PM, serving until 11:00PM.If you're really desperate, the standard bunch of fast food chains do stay open throughout the day.
Madrid is located in the central region of Spain known as Castille, which has a particular culinary tradition within Spain, largely meat based. Within this region, Madrid has a number of "typical" dishes:
Spanish dishes popular throughout the country are also widely served in Madrid--see Spain#Spanish dishes.
It is ironic that Madrid, located right in the center of Spain is known in the country as the "Best port in Spain" having higher quality seafood than most coastal regions. You will be hard pressed to find better quality seafood in any city in Europe than in Madrid. This quality comes at a price, and most Spaniards will rarely embark on the luxury of a mariscada (Spanish for "seafood fest"). Experiencing Madrid's seafood may be, for the visitor, an experience which will be worth the cost.
A side note about paella in Madrid - many of the restaurants and cervecerías in the Sol and Plaza Mayor area have "generic" poster board advertisements on the sidewalks with pictures advertising various paella dishes (you will recognize them when you see them). These paellas are usually not the best quality to be found and should generally be avoided. If you are looking for good, authentic Spanish paella, it is usually best to find a more expensive, "sit-down" type of restaurant that offers a variety of paella dishes and try your first paella dish there. Look for restaurants that specialize in the cuisine of Valencia like: Casa de Valencia, Casa Nemesio, Manete, Samm or D'fabula.
Meat and meat products (Jamon Iberico, morcilla, chorizo etc) are of generally a very high quality in Spain and particularly in Madrid. See Spain#Specialties to buy.
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The national youth hostel association can be found online at Reaj.com . Prices range from €7.80 to €16 per person and night, including breakfast.
Self-catering apartments have become a solution to make up for the lack of accommodation on several periods, when conventions or any other specific event overflow city′s capacity. They can also offer more space, more privacy, and the option of cheaper self-cooked meals.
Due to the proliferation of wi-fi routers distributed by the DSL providers, Madrid has a considerable number of unsecured hotspots in the trendier neighborhoods, such as Chueca.
Madrid has a fair amount of non-violent pickpocket crime so always watch any bags (purses, luggage, shopping bags, etc) you may have with you especially in the underground and in the Puerta del Sol/Gran Via areas. Be extra careful with your luggage and if you are carrying numerous bags, be aware of anyone approaching you with an outspread map in hand asking for directions (this is very possibly a bid to distract you while an accomplice steals your luggage). Busy tourist areas are obvious prime targets, but pubs and clubs are not uncommon target zones. However, pickpocket crime in Madrid is very rarely confrontational and the city is equipped with cameras and there are always a lot of people in the streets, even at night time, so you can walk across the city without fear. Madrid is as safe as or safer than most mainstream tourist cities but a little precaution and common sense can save you some nasty surprises.
Getting robbed by gangs of gypsy children while withdrawing money from cash-points is not uncommon at all. This usually happens in the city centre, with a couple of kids (as young as 10 years old) surround the unsuspecting victim once the card has been inserted and the PIN has been keyed in. One of the kids will try to distract the victim with some sort of document or newspaper while another one either takes the money that's coming out, or keys in a withdrawal amount of €500 (to obviously take it). In case you face this, your best option is to immediately press the red CANCEL key ('CANCELAR' in spanish), the delivery of the bills will be cancelled, as well as the debit to your account/card, and in a few seconds your card will be returned to you.
The number of such incidents has decreased significantly, since major Spanish banks now require you to enter the PIN again before dispensing the bills for amounts exceeding €100.
Madrid is both a city and a region in Spain and as such has a number of sights within easy reach. Popular destinations include:
To check the train timetables and fares, visit the Renfe website .
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